Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Van Wyck Brooks

American Literary Critic, Biographer and Historian, Pulitzer Prize for History, American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Belles Lettres and Criticism

"There is no stopping the world’s tendency to throw off imposed restraints, the religious authority that is based on the ignorance of the many, the political authority that is based on the knowledge of the few."

"A man who has the courage of his platitudes is always a successful man. The instructed man is ashamed to pronounce in an orphic manner what everybody knows, and because he is silent people think he is making fun of them. They like a man who expresses their own superficial thoughts in a manner that appears to be profound. This enables them to feel that they are themselves profound."

"Earnest people are often people who habitually look at the serious side of things that have no serious side."

"As against having beautiful workshops, studios, etc., one writes best in a cellar on a rainy day."

"Better the fragrant herb of wit and a little cream of affability than all the pretty cups in the world."

"Genius and virtue are to be more often found clothed in gray than in peacock bright."

"If men were basically evil, who would bother to improve the world instead of giving it up as a bad job at the outset?"

"It is not that the French are not profound, but they all express themselves so well that we are led to take their geese for swans."

"No man should ever publish a book until he has first read it to a woman."

"No one is fit to judge a book until he has rounded Cape Horn in a sailing vessel, until he has bumped into two or three icebergs, until he has been lost in the sands of the desert, until he has spent a few years in the House of the Dead."

"Magnanimous people have no vanity, they have no jealousy, and they feed on the true and the solid wherever they find it. And, what is more, they find it everywhere."

"The creative impulses of man are always at war with the possessive impulses."

"People of small caliber are always carping. They are bent on showing their own superiority, their knowledge or prowess or good breeding."

"Nothing is so soothing to our self-esteem as to find our bad traits in our forebears. It seems to absolve us."

"Nothing is sadder than having worldly standards without worldly means."

"The man who has the courage of his platitudes is always a successful man."

"Those of our writers who have possessed a vivid personal talent have been paralyzed by a want of social background."

"The American mind, unlike the English, is not formed by books, but, as Carl Sandburg once said to me, by newspapers and the Bible."

"Never forget that it is we New Yorkers and New Englanders who have the monopoly of whatever oxygen there is in the American continent."